Monday, 29 February 2016

The Nausicaa Project: Experiments in Nylon

This week's blog post is about how I gave my Nausicaa puppet a covering of nylon skin, and my general experience with using the medium for the first time.

As you'll know from a previous post, the method I've been experimenting with for this puppet is 'soft sculpture'; building up layers of stitched wadding to create a 3D shape with the intention of covering it in a stretch nylon to emulate human flesh. My inspiration comes from the artist Lisa Lichtenfels, who achieves amazing results with this technique.

Once I was happy with the shape and smoothness of the wadding on the body, the next step was to pin and stretch nylon over it, ready to be sewn. I had previously dyed white nylon tights to two shades, a light pink and a pale skin colour. I used Kemtex Rit Dye in 'Sand Beige' and 'Cerise Red' for this:

The light pink was the first layer to be applied. The idea is that by layering two different colours more depth is created, the overall result being a naturalistic warmth in the skin. Before pinning down the nylon I covered any obvious seam lines with little wisps of stuffing to help smooth out the shape. Ideally you want as few seam lines as possible on the nylon, or at least for the necessary seam lines to be in subtle places. So here, I used the same piece of nylon on the legs and the front of the torso, creating the seam at the side of the body and around the armholes:

Getting a neat seam line is vital to the overall look of the skin being fluid, so clean cutting and neat pinning is an important part of the process. It's also important to pull the nylon taut enough, so the nylon doesn't ripple or distort the shape of the body:

At this stage I started needle sculpting in details, like around the toes. The final layer will hopefully look its best, if time is taken on the first!

Once the pink nylon was fully stretched and stitched down I started to apply the second, flesh coloured layer. In some areas, rather than stitching in the details I applied a tiny covering of glue and gently pressed the shape. I found that this gave a nicer result than needle sculpting in some areas, which I definitely need to practice more! The shoulder blade detail came out quite nicely with this technique:

At this stage I was really starting to appreciate just how well the nylon and wadding creates the looks of flesh, and feeling pretty happy with the results! They're such basic and unlikely materials, I'm still amazed at what can be done with them.

The hands were incredibly fiddly, and took me a whole day to get right! They're not perfect, but I managed to make the stitches pretty subtle.

Regarding how I stitched the skin down, for the first layer I tried just pulling the two raw edges together as gently as possible, but the result was quite a visible line which looked uneven and messy. For the skin toned layer I tried a slip stitch instead, which rendered a much more subtle and neat result.

Her face took days of work and I have a lot to say about it, so I'll save it for next week's post. Nausicaa is now fully covered, and I'm definitely very happy with how she's looking overall. I still have a lot to learn about this soft sculpture technique, and working on this puppet has only made me more curious to experiment more and keep learning.

Thanks for reading, check back next week for my post on covering the face!

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